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Moshiach in the Parsha

This week we will be reading the Torah portion of Pinchas.

“Pinchas son of Elazar son of Aharon the Kohen (Gadol) turned back my anger from upon the Jewish people, when he zealously avenged me among them, (Many people had started relationships with non Jewish women which had also brought them to serve their idols. When Pinchas saw Zimri, leader of the tribe of Shimon going, with a non-Jewish woman, he killed both of them. Many people were killed as punishment for their sins. After Pinchas killed Zimri the people came to their senses and realized how wrong they had been.) So I did not consume the Jewish people in my vengeance. (24000 people died as a result of the sin. After Pinchas killed Zimri the plague stopped). Therefore say: Behold! I give him my covenant of peace. (Although he was a grandson of Aharon he had not been a kohen until then. When Hashem gave priesthood to Aharon and his descendants, only those descendants who had yet to be born were included with the exception of Aharon’s sons. Pinchas was not included for he had been born already. As a reward for killing Zimri he received priesthood which is referred to as peace.)

Being that we find ourselves in the ‘3 weeks’, the haftarah we will read this week will be about Yirmiyahu’s prophecies concerning the tragedies that were going to< befall the Jewish people if they wouldn’t improve their conduct. Before the actual prophecy there is an introduction in which Yirmiyahu relates how he was appointed as a prophet. “The words of Yirmiyahu son of Chilkiyahu one of the priests … Hashem spoke to me as follows: “Before I formed you in your mothers womb I knew you and before you were born I sanctified you and I appointed you to become a prophet for the nations.” And I answered back: “...but I am only a child!” And Hashem said: “ Don’t say that! Because wherever I will send you, you will go and whatever I will tell you to say you will say. Don’t be afraid of anyone for I will be with you.”

There are several connections between the haftarah and the Torah portion. For one there is the similarity in how Pinchas and Yirmiyahu are being described. By both their family history is mentioned. The reason for that is because both were being ridiculed by the people for being descendents of non-Jews. Pinchas was a descendant of Yitro and Yirmiyahu was a descendant of Rachav. The Jewish people were not ready to accept deeds or words, no matter how holy, from a ‘stranger’. The Torah therefore lets us know that they were also descendants of priests.

Another connection is the situation in which the Jewish people found themselves at the time. In both instances the people had gone astray and was there a need to arouse them to return to the ways of the Torah.

Another prophet who spoke about the destruction of the temple was Yeshayahu. The difference between Yeshayahu and Yirmiyahu is in how they tried to wake up the people from their spiritual slumber. Yeshayahu mainly talks about the positive and good that would be if only the people would repent; Yirmiyahu points out the negative that would happen if the people would NOT repent. Their style is connected with their names and the times they lived in. Yirmiyahu contains in it the word ‘mar’ bitter, Yeshayahu comes from the word yeshua, salvation. Yeshayahu lived in a time of ‘revelations’; Yirmiyahu lived in ‘dark’ times. Therefore Yeshayahu had a positive attitude when reprimanding the people and Yeshayahu a negative one.

This is another connection between Pinchas and Yirmiyahu. Pinchas chose to bring the people to repentance through performing a NEGATIVE act because he too lived in a ‘dark’ time where everyone was transgressing the word of G-d.

Concerning Pinchas’ reward a simple question comes to mind. We find that Hashem gives him an eternal reward for taking away His anger by giving him priesthood for all generations to follow. Over the past few weeks we have read about the many times that Moshe convinced Hashem not to punish the Jewish people and to have mercy on them. Also in this weeks parsha, we read about Moshe asking Hashem to appoint someone to lead the nation after his passing. The medrash tells us that he suggested his sons as possible candidates. Hashem decides otherwise and appoints Yehoshua, the devoted student, instead. Why was Pinchas rewarded with priesthood for all generations to come as a reward for ‘calming’ Hashem’s anger. Yet Moshe, who did this many times, couldn’t even obtain leadership for his own sons?

The difference between Moshe and Pinchas:

Moshe changed Hashem’s decrees through PRAYER. Plagues would stop as a result of Moshe praying for it, but Hashem did the actual ‘stopping’.
Pinchas performed a physical DEED that stopped the people from dying.

At one point Moshe suggests to Hashem to have his name erased from the Torah if He doesn’t forgive the Jewish people. This can be considered a SPIRITUAL self-sacrifice.

When Pinchas killed Zimri, a leader of a tribe, the tribe members wanted to kill him. Only when Hashem made it clear that it had been His will, did they hold back. (The Talmud relates the many miracles that took place then.) That was PHYSICAL self-sacrifice.

In general we can say that Moshe worked from ‘up to down’ and Pinchas from ‘down to up’. Moshe went UP to Hashem on Mt Sinai and brought the Torah DOWN into the world. He prayed to Hashem UP in heaven to forgive the people DOWN here.
Pinchas performed a deed DOWN here and caused the Jews DOWN here to repent. Although it is not specifically mentioned in the Torah that the people repented, it is nevertheless hinted in the word ‘betocham’ (among them). Literally it means IN them. Pinchas’ deed affected the inner core of the Jews, which prompted them to repent.


At the time of the giving of the Torah everyone was perfect in spiritual and physical sense. It didn’t last long though. As soon as the ‘show was over’, people returned to their old ways and a golden calf was erected as idol.

Light expels darkness. The spiritual light of Torah expels spiritual darkness. However, just like when a physical light is turned off, the darkness returns, so does spiritual darkness return when the revelation from above gets discontinued. The only way to ensure the light remains, is by making the previously dark place capable of remaining light.

Pinchas transformed the physical into a vessel for spiritual light by doing a PHYSICAL deed. The stage that people reached by coming to their own understanding of their mistakes was of a more lasting nature than the revelations that took place by
the giving of the Torah.

Moshe worked mainly with the spiritual power of his SOUL, therefore we find by him a divine service connected to spiritual self-sacrifice. Pinchas’ divine service was mainly connected to transform the physical BODY into a vessel for spiritual light therefore by him we find a readiness to physically give up his life.

Moshe did not make lasting changes in the physical realm therefore he did not get a lasting reward in this world. Pinchas who transformed and elevated the world to a level where it could remain light, received an everlasting reward in this world.

Moshe and Yeshayahu lived in times of spiritual revelations. Their dealing with darkness was therefore also in a way of light. Moshe brought the Torah into the world and Yeshayahu prophesized about all the good things that will happen to the Jewish people.

Pinchas and Yirmiyahu lived in a time of spiritual darkness. The darkness they had to deal with started with themselves, as they were both descendants of non-Jews. (As opposed to Moshe who was as a baby already lighting up his house with his shiny appearance) With that (and as a result of that) they had to deal with a negative attitude towards them.

What all this means to us in our day to day life. Feeling spiritual in shul and after listening to an inspiring lecture (or after reading this e-mail) will not have a lasting effect. Such a divine service would be sufficient for someone living in the Moshe or Yeshayahu era. The excitement usually wears off as soon as the reality of the ‘real’ world knocks on the door again. In our last days of this dark exile we have to deal with the world in a Pinchas /Yirmiyahu way. We have to see to it that those who find themselves on a lower level of observance will also understand that they have to keep the Torah and its mitzvot.

“But Who am I to go out and deal with the world?” you may ask. “I am not strong enough myself to be able to inspire others!” The introduction of the Haftarah deals with that problem. First we are told that Yirmiyahu was (not only a descendant of a non-Jew but also) a kohen. We may have our own ‘non-Jew’ inside us but we also have a neshoma, a spark of G-d. Hashem then tells Yirmiyahu, and every Jewish soul before its descent: “My dear soul, don’t be afraid to go down to the world. I know you from before you were formed in your mother’s womb. I.E. the source of your soul is higher than the world you are entering. Not only that; I also sanctified you before you were born. I.E. I prepared you in your mother’s womb to face the world and taught you the entire Torah there. The soul answers back: “But I am only a little child! It might be true that on a spiritual level I stand higher than the world but in the real world I don’t feel that”. To that Hashem says: “Don’t say that! Because wherever I will send you, you will go and whatever I will tell you to say you will say. Don’t be afraid of anyone for I WILL BE WITH YOU!”

Our sages say: “Pinchas is Eliyahu.” Eliyahu is the prophet who went up to heaven with his physical body. He managed to refine and transform it to the extent that he could take it into the spiritual worlds with him. [Note that Moshe was born as a full term baby after a 7 months pregnancy, the shortest time possible and Eliyahu after 12 moths, the longest pregnancy possible. Moshe worked mainly with his soul; Eliyahu (Pinchas) with the body.] It will also be Eliyahu who will notify us of the coming of Moshiach. Moshiach comes when we complete our work in exile of transforming the darkness into light. Then the light will shine forever.
May it be right NOW!

 

 


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